The other morning I woke up before the alarm and decided I might as well get up and run. Out the door before 6, it was still dark. Roughly 3/4 of a mile out, running in the bike lane through my neighborhood, I approached a clump of something in the lane. As I got closer and a passing car’s lights lit up the lane, I figured out it was a dead possum. Roughly 20 yards later I stepped over a dead armadillo. Then within just yards I had to maneuver around two huge palm branches crossing the lane. Within that same patch, cars timely passed so I could see and not do something stupid.
Thinking about it later, I remembered this verse I’d read and journaled about recently from I John 2:11.
“Those who hate a fellow believer are in the darkness and walk around in the darkness; they do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”
Ever noticed how hate makes you do stupid things. Even while you’re doing them your mind is saying, “What is going on? I don’t want to do this. Where is this coming from?” Sometimes it’s not until much later, after you’ve totally blown it, that you figure it all out. Then you have to humble yourself, or at least you have the choice, and admit what was driving your outrageous actions.
Thank God for the light of love. It reveals the dead stuff, guides you to a better path, and helps you avoid roadkill and debris.
Choose it. Run in it. The alternative – running blind – can be quite costly.
As the Community Care Director for a counseling center, it’s not uncommon to be in conversations about suicide. Yet, no matter how common it may be, it has yet to feel normal.
And the reason why is because it’s not. It’s a sign of hurt and pain. We live in a broken world, which can result in people’s minds taking them down this dark road. And it’s no respecter of minds.
The middle-age pastor’s mind that goes home after leading a Sunday service and questions why he should go on.
The twelve-year-old middle schooler’s mind that leads her to a parking lot where she chooses to end her pain.
The senior citizen’s mind that says, “I’m done fighting this battle with my body.”
As I witnessed again this morning, when a hurting mind is met with love, empathy, and strength, healing is available. It’s not instantaneous; it’s one step at a time. A step, however small it may be, toward the light may be all that mind needs to stop spiraling into darkness.
Be light to those you know or suspect are lonely, hurting, or in pain. That is normal. And it needs to be more common.
Recently a colleague referenced this book by Pat Schneider:
After doing my usual thing of sampling it on Kindle, I purchased it. (NOTE: “Usual thing on Kindle” means if I’m enticed to highlight while reading the sample, it’s more than likely an eventual purchase.)
At first I wasn’t enticed, but then came these two lines from the same paragraph:
When I achieve true waiting, true listening, something happens that I experience as a gift…If I am made in the image of the creator, then I am myself a creator, and my acts of creating participate in mystery.
That first line grabbed my attention. It aligns with several messages I’ve heard recently, the most recent while driving to Orlando yesterday. (NOTE: To radio DJs, your words carry power.) I’ve lived most of my life feeling like I’ve taken on a burden when someone shares intimate stories with me. I’ve been eased and encouraged lately to see these sharings as gifts, completely altering how I listen and experience the moment.
And that second line, it’s a different way to say what I’ve often told others. We are creators. We are creative. We were created to create. Opening our minds to that truth and expanding our definition of creativity frees us to “participate in mystery.”
Here’s one other memorable story from David Platt’s book Something Needs To Change. While visiting a home housing girls who had been rescued from trafficking, he learned one example of how they were led to see themselves.
On a table in the room, I see cracked glass tea cups. The woman who leads the home, Liv, tells us how these cups were an art project. In a recent class, the group talked about seeing beauty in the middle of brokenness. Each girl was given a glass tea cup and asked to break it by throwing it on the floor. The girls were hesitant at first, but one by one they threw their cups and watched them shatter into pieces. Then each girl was asked to glue her cup back together, piece by piece.
Next they placed a small candle inside each cup and lit it. The cracks in those broken cups actually allowed the light of the candles to shine brighter. That led to a discussion of how in our lives we might feel broken because of what we’ve done or what’s been done to us. But if we let him, God puts us back together and the light of his love shines brightly for others to see, even through our hurts.
There are many “ifs” in this scene.
If they talked
If they threw them down
If they put them back together
If they lit the candle
If they let God
Beauty is hidden when we stay stuck in the ifs. The enemy loves our being stuck; our Redeemer longs to fully free us in order to shine through us. Are you stuck? Maybe it’s time to break a cup.
There is a vast difference between being in something and actually being it. For example, being an American is vastly different from being in America. Ask anyone who’s gone through getting their citizenship.
So when Paul writes in Ephesians 5 that “…you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord,” he’s saying something rather significant. He didn’t say you were once in the dark and now you are in the light. He said you were dark and now you’re light. A vast difference. Being in the dark isn’t as dire as being dark; being in the light isn’t as powerful as being light.
Believers have been changed. They are now light. As believers, it seems we walk too often trying to be in something rather than actually being who we are through the new person our faith in the resurrected power of Jesus has created us to be. Yes, we are to walk in His light. But we are also to be light. Our lives can be much more than just being in the Light.
I am finding the more I take hold of this new identity the more I am light rather than just being in it. I am finding out more “what is acceptable to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10).